Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 26-20 loss to the Georgia Southern Eagles and upcoming season finale at home against the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, Nov. 30. The game will kick off at 12:00 p.m. and air live on ESPN.
The Gators will be without at least two more players on Saturday as redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor (sprained MCL) and freshman LB Alex Anzalone (dislocated shoulder) have already been ruled out for the game. Taylor will avoid surgery, but Anzalone will be forced to go under the knife.
Muschamp also called redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) questionable and listed sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (sprained MCL) as doubtful.
Junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) has already been cleared to play, and sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard (knee) is probable to see the field.
COACHING CHANGES COMING?
Muschamp refused to address the recent reports that it has already been decided that adjustments will be made to Florida’s offensive staff.
“There’s no changes that have been made at this time,” he said. “I’m not ready to make any statement on that at this point. We’re still playing out the season and those guys are going to coach their butts off. I’ll make that decision when I think it’s ready.”
In a similar vein, Muschamp was adamant that he was not at all concerned about his future with the Gators.
“Absolutely not,” he said when asked if he was worried about his job. After being questioned about his confidence in returning next season, Muschamp similarly answered, “Absolutely.”
He also once again put the blame on his shoulders – “It’s on me. We’ll get it fixed. I can assure you of that” – but admitted that it was nice to have the support of the players in addition to that of the administration.
“I think it’s important. Obviously I think that they understand where we are and where we’re headed with the program.” Muschamp said. “They have total confidence, in my opinion, of where we’re headed. I think they understand the plan and what we need to do … as we move forward.”
GETTING IT FIXED
When Muschamp took over the Gators, he memorably and confidently said that Florida was not a program that needed five years to be rebuilt. Yet in the third year of his tenure, UF is about to post its worst record and first losing season since 1979 and has more questions than answers at this point.
“Continue to recruit well, which I think our last two classes – you look at the production on the field of those two classes has been very good – got to continue to put together another class like that,” said Muschamp on what he can do to turn Florida around. “I think we need to make some improvements offensively. I think defensively we’ve been a little inconsistent this year. I think obviously we’ve taken a step back, from my opinion, for some obvious reasons. But at the end of the day, it’s not an excuse. We need to perform better on the field and that’s my responsibility.”
He also expressed his confidence in getting the program fixed and rehashed his contention that the Gators are much closer to returning to being a top-tier team than many might believe.
“I don’t think it’s hitting a reset button. It takes work. I don’t believe we’re that far off, regardless of the results Saturday afternoon, which was all disappointing for everyone, starting with me. I just don’t feel like we’re that far off,” Muschamp said.
“I think there’s some key components of our football team that aren’t playing for us right now and we’re very thin in some areas. It is what it is. I’m not making excuses; that’s just the facts and it’s real.
“I think we got a good staff and I think we got a really good football team fighting their butt off – this Saturday first of all and – heading into spring. I’m excited about that, and I’m excited about this Saturday and our guys getting out and competing again.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On his message to prospects who may be concerned about committing to the Gators: “It’s still the University of Florida. I think there’s some obvious reasons why we are where we are. We’re a team that won 11 games last year, and I don’t think that happened by accident. We have a really good football staff. We’ve got some good players on our football team. We’re going to have a good football team moving forward. At the end of the day, this is a great education, it’s a great place to come compete and be a student-athlete.”
» On why Florida has sometimes imploded when adversity struck during a game: “I think that a lot of the leadership we have hasn’t played for us this year – Jeff Driskel, Dominique Easley – a lot of those guys haven’t been a part of what we’re trying to do as far as being on the field and playing for us. I still think we have good leadership on the team or in this program. Some of it is absent at this point. If that’s the situation, we need to coach better. That’s the bottom line.”
» Muschamp said the Gators will discuss early entrants into the 2014 NFL Draft at the conclusion of the season. He will get the players the necessary advice and information and help them make a decision about their future.
» Muschamp said redshirt junior walk-on kicker Frankie Velez would be the primary starter on Saturday but redshirt freshman Austin Hardin could come in for long field goals if needed.
» On whether he has veto power over offensive play calls: “Total veto power. I have the opportunity. I’m as mad at myself as I am at anybody else.”
» On his relationship with the media: “I love you guys. I don’t have any problem with anybody. Everybody has an opinion and everybody’s certainly entitled to that. That’s part of it. That’s part of the job. I don’t have any issue with that. … I say what’s on my mind. I tell you the way it is. I don’t want to beat around it or anything. … You got jobs to do. Sometimes your opinion may be different from mine. … And that’s fine. I’m involved in the day to day operation of the program. You got to see the big picture of where we are and more than anything where we’re headed. It’s been very frustrating and it’s all on me. I get all that and we need to improve and get better. And that’s what we’re going to do. But I ain’t got any problem with [the media].”
» On Florida State’s star quarterback: “Jameis Winston is a fantastic football player, mature beyond his years. A really good athlete, but a really good quarterback. A guy that’s got a great arm. He can make all the throws. … He makes some throws now. He’s got a really good arm. He understands where he’s taking the football, got a really good pocket presence, can hurt you with his legs. He’s a really good athlete as well, but he’s a quarterback first.”